You do WHAT for a Living?!?!
The Pelvic Practice
By Julie Bagshaw
In the wonderful group of pelvic health physiotherapists at Vital Physiotherapy & Wellness, as thrilling as it is to be practicing pelvic physiotherapy, I still find it shocking that when I explain what it is that I do, many people look at me with WIDE eyes and say: ‘…you do WHAT for a living?’ – hence the motivation for this blog!
In order to understand pelvic physio, it’s necessary to understand what the pelvic floor is, why it’s so important, and the types of issues that can occur when you have pelvic floor dysfunction. I’ll also explain what we do as pelvic floor physiotherapists and give you a sense of what to expect on your first visit.
Let’s start with a little Pelvic Floor Anatomy!
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sit at the base of the pelvis. They run from the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis to the bottom of the spine, called the coccyx, at the back. They span the width from sitz bone to sitz bone (If you don’t know what your sitz bone is, put your hand under one side of your bum and feel for a hard bone – that’s it!)
Check out the anatomical (female) picture to the right to better visualise the pelvic floor and see how it fits
Also, just to clarify – men have pelvic floor muscles too! The male anatomy is slightly different but, for the most part, the SAME group of muscles exists that perform the SAME jobs.
The pelvic floor has 5 SUPER important roles in the body:
Support They support our organs against gravity and increases in pressure (e.g. cough/sneeze)
Maintain continence They control the opening and closing of the urethra, rectum and vagina (in women)
Sexual function They provide muscle tone for the rectal and vaginal canals and play a role in orgasm
Circulation These muscles act as a ‘sump pump’ for our veins and lymph system
Stability The pelvic floor is part of our inner core system that helps to stabilise our pelvis and low back during daily movements
How do you know if your pelvic floor is working well?
Do you ever pee when you laugh, jump, or on the way to the bathroom? Do you have pain with inserting a tampon, during a PAP test or with intercourse?? Do you feel pelvic heaviness and even some bulging out of the vaginal opening? Or do you notice that your stomach bulges outward or looks different after giving birth? If this sounds like you..….…you may have pelvic floor dysfunction. Your pelvic floor symptoms could even start as pain with daily movements such as walking, standing up from a chair and turning in bed.
The chance of having these symptoms increase during and after pregnancy, due to the increased pressure from the growing baby and stress on your inner core system, and around the time when your body goes into menopause.
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are here to help!!!
We can help with all of these issues mentioned above and ensure that you get back to what is important to you – whether that’s CrossFit, running or simply playing with your kids! We have specialised training that allows us to do internal vaginal and rectal exams of your pelvic floor so that we can better understand the cause of your symptoms.
In your first visit, you will likely spend about half of the time going through a detailed history of your bladder and bowel function, gynaecological history and activity goals, to name a few things. We want to hear YOUR story and understand all factors that may play a role in resolving your symptoms. The assessment portion of your first appointment may include things such as looking at your posture, breathing pattern, functional positions such as squatting or standing on one leg and an internal exam of how well your pelvic floor muscles are functioning. That doesn’t sound so scary, right? Right!
I hope you’ve learned a thing or two about your pelvic floor and pelvic physiotherapy. Most importantly, please spread the word that NO ONE needs to live with the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction!